Issue 7: Firelands schools bond issue

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    Firelands Superintendent Mike Von Gunten shows the antiquated boiler room at South Amherst Middle School.



HENRIETTA TWP. - Firelands Schools will seek voter approval of a 4.28-mill bond issue in November to build a new high school.

On the ballot, Issue 7 is being voted on for the construction and remodeling of the schools.

Firelands Schools will seek voter approval of a 4.28-mill bond issue in November to build a new high school.

The bond issue would raise $24.4 million; and, if it passes, the district will receive $5.2 million from the state, Superintendent Mike Von Gunten said.

Issue 7
What is it: A 4.28-mill bond issue
Duration: 36 years
How much would it raise: $24.4 million
Purpose: To raise funds for the construction and remodeling of schools
Cost to homeowner: The owner of a $100,000 home will pay $150 annually.

The money would be used to move students out of South Amherst Middle School, 152 W. Main St., and give it back to the community. A new building would be built for ninth to 12thgrades, and students in grades six through eight would move into the current high school, Von Gunten said.

"At 108 years old, South Amherst Middle School is no longer effectively providing safe, secure and productive spaces for teaching and learning," Von Gunten said.

The new facility would be built on district-owned property and would be connected to the current high school on Vermilion Road in Henrietta Township. It also would serve as the main entrance and administrative area for all students in sixth through 12th grades, providing increased safety and security of the existing high school.

A central kitchen and cafeteria for grades six through 12 also would be built to maximize resources.

November marks the fourth time the bond issue has gone before voters. The first levy defeat was in November 2015.

It failed again in March 2016, and the board then proposed a single ballot question with two parts - a 3.61-mill property tax and 0.25 percent income tax in August 2016, which also failed.

Should the levy be approved, the new school will open for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

However, if the voters do not approve the levy, Von Gunten said the district will continue to "feel the strain of educational and financial challenges caused by its deteriorating facilities, and more tough decisions will need to be made."

"Our maintenance staff works hard to make emergency repairs to our building systems and keep the buildings functioning as well as they can," Von Gunten said. "We can no longer ignore the looming maintenance concerns at South Amherst Middle School.

In the short term, the (Environmental Protection Agency) is requiring the district to replace the sewage plant at South Amherst Middle School before the start of the 2019-2020 school year at an estimated cost of $300,000; however, the EPA is willing to grant an extension if the ballot issue passes this November."

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